I. The religious times ordained in the law fall under three heads:
Those formally connected with the institution of the Sabbath;
This historical or great festivals;
The day of atonement.
Immediately connected with the institution of the Sabbath are:
a. The weekly Sabbath itself. b. The seventh new moon, or feast of trumpets. c. The sabbatical year. d. The year of jubilee.
The great feasts are:
a. The Passover.
b. The feast of pentecost, of weeks, of wheat-harvest or of the first-fruits.
c. The feast of tabernacles or of ingathering. On each of these occasions every male Israelite was commanded to "appear before the Lord," that is, to attend in the court of the tabernacle or the temple, and to make his offering with a joyful heart. (27:7; Nehemiah 8:9-12) The attendance of women was voluntary, but the zealous often went up to the Passover. On all the days of holy convocation there was to be an entire suspension of ordinary labor of all kinds, (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 16:29; 23:21,24,25,35) but on the intervening days of the longer festivals work might be carried on. The agricultural significance of the three great festivals is clearly set forth in the account of the Jewish sacred year contained in (Leviticus 23:1)... The times of the festivals were evidently ordained in wisdom, so as to interfere as little as possible with the industry of the people. The value of these great religious festivals was threefold.
(1) Religious effects:
They preserved the religious faith of the nation and religious unity among the people. They constantly reminded the people of the divinely-wrought deliverances of the past; promoted gratitude and trust; and testified the reverence of the people for the temple and its sacred contents. Besides this was the influence of well-conducted temple services upon the synagogues through the land, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries.
(2) Political effects:
The unity of the nation would be insured by this fusion of the tribes; otherwise they would be likely to constitute separate tribal states. They would carry back to the provinces glowing accounts of the wealth, power and resources of the country.
(3) Social effects:
They promoted friendly intercourse between travelling companions; distributed information through the country at a time when the transmission of news was slow and imperfect; and imported into remote provincial districts a practical knowledge of all improvements in arts and sciences.
For the day of atonement see that article.
II. After the captivity, the feast of purim, (Esther 9:20) seq., and that of the dedication, 1Macc 4:56, were instituted.
Main reference: Smith's Bible Dictionary (1860s)
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